Giolito, Hahn optimistic MLB can avoid damaging work stoppage
SoxFest 2022 was officially canceled on Friday, and the Cubs Convention followed suit Saturday.
COVID-19 is the obvious cause for pulling the plug on the annual winter fan gatherings in Chicago.
There is another reason, and it's equally important.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Dec. 1. According to The Associated Press, a work stoppage beginning Dec. 2 is "almost certain."
There has been labor peace between owners and players since 1994-95. I was new to the Daily Herald baseball beat back then, and still remember the contentious shutdown that cost baseball the '94 World Series and almost destroyed the game.
The animosity between the two sides doesn't feel nearly as toxic this time around, and here's hoping the anticipated work stoppage doesn't do more damage.
But even if a shutdown is brief, it would be next to impossible for the White Sox and Cubs to get players in town for the fan festivals that are held in January.
Losing SoxFest and the Cubs Convention is not a huge deal, especially with the COVID-19 menace still lingering around.
Losing spring training and any part of next season would be a huge problem. Lucas Giolito, the White Sox's capable player representative, knows what's at stake.
"When I think back to basketball, football, even hockey, fans want the sport to continue," Giolito said. "They want the sport to grow. Any time there's a work stoppage, it prevents that. While that kind of stuff can be necessary sometimes, it doesn't matter who they side with, a fan is never going to be happy when they're worried that the season might not happen or the season might be cut short.
"That's why I think it's imperative that we continue to have that good communication and try to get something done."
There have already been trades and other roster moves made this off-season, but a work stoppage on Dec. 2 would leave a glut of free agents in limbo until a deal is reached.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn is proceeding like it's business as usual.
"From my perspective and our perspective as a baseball department ... we aren't really changing our conversations with other clubs or free agents," Hahn said. "Some things may obviously change in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. For example, someone earlier mentioned the qualifying offer. We're not quite sure what that will yield in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement and no one's really going to know until everything is final. But other than more ancillary issues like that, we're just going about our business as usual.
"And look, what's it been, 25, 26 years or something of labor peace, which is a remarkable stretch for those of us who remember the late (19)70s and '80s and early '90s, in terms of how frequently there were stoppages. So, until told otherwise, I'm going to remain optimistic that the remarkable stretch will continue thanks to the hard work of MLB and the PA (Players association). So, we're business as usual until we're told otherwise."
Sox pick up Kimbrel option:
As expected, the White Sox exercised the $16-million club option on relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel for the 2022 season.
They declined the $6-million club option on second baseman Cesar Hernandez, also expected.
With Liam Hendriks set as the Sox's closer, look for Kimbrel to be traded this winter.
After being acquired July 30 in a trade that sent second baseman Nick Madrigal and relief pitcher Codi Heuer to the Cubs, Kimbrel struggled (2-2, 5.09 ERA) while mainly pitching the eighth inning.
Acquired from Cleveland in a July 29 trade, Hernandez hit .232/.309/.299 in 53 games.